Film: Braveheart

"They may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM!"
William Wallace

1995 film directed by, produced by, and starring Mel Gibson, and written by Randall Wallace, a self-proclaimed Real Life descendant of the main character. Braveheart tells the extremely fictionalized story of the legendary Scottish rebel William Wallace and his revolution against King Edward the Longshanks of England, in which he battled for the freedom of Scotland and... well... got himself killed.

Wallace starts as a simple farmer who only wants to live a peaceful life with his beloved wife Murron (Catherine McCormack), despite his father's death at the hands of the English. Unfortunately, he stops a rape of his wife by marauding English soldiers, and after the evil English magistrate executes her in retaliation, Wallace continues the spiral of revenge and soon the other villagers rise up as well. As the whole of Scotland is drawn into the rebellion against England, Wallace takes command of the Scottish army to kick ass... for FREEDOM!

The cast also includes Patrick McGoohan as Edward I "Longshanks", King of England, Peter Hanly as a young Edward II, Sophie Marceau as Princess Isabella of France, and Angus Macfadyen as Robert the Bruce (later King of Scotland). The film won five awards at the 1995 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

It should not be confused with real history or the iPhone game or the leonine leader of the Care Bear Cousins. Or a song from a certain cartoon...

Tropes found in Braveheart include:

  • Adventurous Irish Violins: Braveheart is in love with this trope; its a wonderful example of its flexibility, for although the heroes are Scots-Highlanders (and an Irishman), the passionate strains of said trope in the musical score still flawlessly evoke the highland spirit of energetic playfulness, savage bloodlust, and energetically playful savage bloodlust.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: "An assault on the king's soldiers is the same as an assault on the king himself."
  • Annoying Arrows: Zig-Zagged. During Wallace's assault on the magistrate who murdered Murron, Campbell the Elder gets hit by an arrow, making Hamish stop to try taking it out, until his father hits him for his foolishness. It gets cauterized afterwards. Later, during the Battle of Falkirk, as the English gain the upper hand with their volleys of arrows, Wallace is struck by one, making him stop, but is well enough to pursue Longshanks' knight, Robert the Bruce.
  • Anti-Villain: Robert the Bruce is type II. He's definitely not a bad person, and really does seem to admire Wallace, but he is also weak and easily manipulated by his father, who convinces him to go along with the nobles' betrayal of Wallace at Falkirk. Seeing Wallace's face fraught with despair once he learns that Robert has betrayed him makes the bruce realize he was wrong, and he saves Wallace's life while making a determined Heel-Face Turn in the process. When his father uses him to betray Wallace yet again, he makes it clear to his old man, in no uncertain terms, that he is now forever dead to him.
  • Arrows on Fire: Justified, as they are used to ignite flaming tar.
  • Artistic License History: In the commentary for this film, Mel Gibson eagerly points out every historical inaccuracy, and defends them in the same sentences for the sake of 'cinematic whimsy', as he puts it.
  • Asshole Victim: The English magistrate of Lanark stands out among the English antagonists.
  • Attempted Rape: Murron and the English soldiers.
  • Badass: William Wallace.
    • Longshanks is an utter dick, but he's a tough dick, kicking Wallace's ass at Falkirk.
  • Badass Boast: "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our FREEDOM!" This has became a popular meme.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Campbell the Elder.
    • EDWARD THE LONGSHANKS. After he throws his son's councilor/lover out a window, the enraged prince takes out a knife and attacks him. Longshanks effortlessly dodges the attack and delivers a massive pimp-slap that sends his son to the floor.
  • California Doubling: For tax reasons, most of the movie was filmed in Ireland. Although it's doubtful that most American viewers noticed the difference, Ireland's rolling green hills and Scotland's rugged, mountainous landscape really don't resemble each other very much. And those parts of Scotland which they did use were on the wrong side of the country; they use the West Highlands, which historically played little part in Wallace's campaign.
  • The Call Knows Where You Live: And it's going to make sure Wallace doesn't try to avoid his destiny of fighting...
  • Call That a Formation??: Played depressingly straight. The Scottish infantry fought as disciplined pike formations, it was their lack of armour and cavalry which made them so vulnerable to the longbow. (Also, what wasn't in those days?) They would not have charged wildly into battle, but advanced in disciplined rows in order to push back cavalry and infantry with massed ranks. The Scots didn't win the battles where they managed to close for battle with the individually more skilled English knights for no reason.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Robert the Bruce does this twice to his father: first after standing along Longshanks at Falkirk, which led to a humiliating defeat for the Scots, and again after Wallace gets captured.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: Very literally, at the battle of Falkirk, when Mornay and Lachlan lead their cavalry off the field rather than charge in at Wallace's signal. They were paid off by Longshanks prior to the battle.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • As a boy, William mentions to his uncle Argyle that he doesn't know Latin, to which Argyle replies "Well, that's something we shall have to remedy.". As an adult, Wallace tells Murron he can speak Latin as well as French. His fluency in both help him as he faces Princess Isabella and her adviser, as mentioned in Bilingual Backfire.
  • Chekhov's Gunman : When the English show up to the wedding and the magistrate takes the bride for Prima Noctae, we see a brief shot of the guard who will later attempt to rape Murron and start the whole thing. All he does is leer at first.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Wallace was Hung, Drawn and Quartered for his troubles. This involved being stretched until his limbs dislocated, hung by the neck but cut down before unconsciousness set in, strapped to a table, having his innards reeled out, his private parts cut off and eventually, when his suffering had ceased to be entertaining, having his head cut off. The corpse would then be cut into four and displayed as a warning to any other would-be challengers of the Crown. Somewhat distressingly, this is one of the bits that's pretty accurate to history.
  • Concepts Are Cheap: Wallace speaks a lot about "freedom" and uses it to motivate and unite Scotland, but aside from "freedom from English Rule" he doesn't elaborate on what is so great about it or how Scottish rule would be any better. Scotland has the same system of oppressive nobility as England, the Scottish nobles are corrupt and out only for themselves, and the clans can barely keep from fighting each other.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: Possibly the only admirable attribute of Longshanks.
  • Defiant to the End: Wallace during his trial and execution.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Seems to happen to Wallace after he finds out who betrayed him at the Battle of Falkirk. His previous anger instantly vanishes and he just seems to give up.
  • The Determinator: Wallace during his trial. Even the English crowd, who at first calls for his blood, eventually get sick of seeing the torture and eventually start calling out for mercy. He was defiant to the end against the English.
  • Doomed Hometown: Seems to be the case at first, but then subverted as the townspeople rise up in rebellion and end up completely kicking the collective butts of the English soldiers who've been holding their town hostage. This scene ends up being a massive Crowning Moment of Awesome for the townspeople.
  • Disposable Woman: Murron dies to set the film in motion.
  • Dramatic Unmask: Robert the Bruce, while fighting on the English side.
  • Droit du Seigneur: Called prima nocte in this movie, instated by Longshanks to win support for the lords and to keep the Scots under their thumb. Morrison and his wife are two of many people who suffer under this, and when Morrison confronts Lord Bottom, the lord responsible for raping his wife, during Wallace's attack on the English garrison, he invokes "the right of a husband" by killing him.
  • Evil Counterpart: While evil may be a bit strong in this case, Prince Edward II essentially serves this role to Robert the Bruce in how both are young men with the (at least apparent) destiny to become king and are held within the grip of a controlling father.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: At the Battle of Stirling:
    Scottish Soldier #1: It's William Wallace.
    Scottish Soldier #2: Can't be. Not tall enough.
  • Fighting Irish: Wallace's most eagerly violent soldier is an Irishman who joined the campaign not for the sake of freedom, but for the chance to kill Englishmen. He's also insane, or deeply religious with a sick sense of humor.
  • Friends All Along: The Scottish and Irish troops.
    Longshanks: Irish...
  • Gorn: Mostly averted... though in the original cut, Wallace's execution by disemboweling was this.
  • Gory Discretion Shot:
    • When the magistrate cuts Murron's throat, it's not explicitly shown. The camera cuts to a close-up of her eyes as they first widen, then slowly droop as she bleeds out. In contrast, when Wallace does the magistrate, it's shown in vivid detail.
    • We do not see the moment when Wallace's head is cut off. The axe moves in slow motion, and we know that he's dead when his hand opens.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: "ALBA GU BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATH!" sort of counts. That is the old Scottish language, but the film is in English.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • After Wallace discovers that Robert Bruce was at the Battle of Falkirk, but with Longshanks.
    • Bruce himself gets one later on when his father's machinations lead to Wallace's betrayal and capture.
  • The Hero Dies: Wallace himself at the end.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: William Wallace was either this or a downgrade, depending on your point of view. The real William Wallace really was close to 7 feet tall for a start, and did quite a bit of the stuff he does in the film (not all of it, but it does cut out other badass feats as well). Of course, he was also a textbook example of The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized and Would Hurt a Child, but being a bastard doesn't make him not a Bad Ass.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Wallace is made a lot more important than Robert Bruce, and the third key figure in the war, Bishop William de Lamberton, was cut out altogether. Another character cut out was Andrew de Moray, another Scottish noble who died after the battle of Stirling Bridge. Some historians have argued that his contribution to the war was just as important and more successful than William Wallace's.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: King Edward Longshanks was a bastard (though many would call him a Magnificent Bastard) in real life, but is a downright mustache-twirling thug in the film. Scots understandably take a dim view of him, as do the Welsh with equally good reason but the English quite correctly regard him as one of their best kings. He was also an excellent husband and father. He may never have known of Edward II's proclivities, he certainly didn't kill any of his male lovers.
  • Hollywood History: So very, very much. Word of God on the DVD commentary acknowledges this, as Mel himself discusses the historical inaccuracies.
    • Isabella of France was nine years old at the time of Wallace's death. And not yet married to Edward II. And still living in France. And her first son was not born for another seven years.
    • Scots had not used woad (blue battle paint) for a millennium or so and would not use kilts for several more centuries (though it's not inconceivable Wallace brought woad back just for sheer effect - only he and his bodyguard wore it at first).
    • Unlike the Iron Age wasteland depicted in the film, Scotland at the time was the destination of many trade routes, and Scots had access to luxuries such as silk, spices and glass.
    • While it is true that one of the earliest records of the "schiltron" (a circular formation of pikemen wielding extremely long anticavalry spears) was the Battle of Stirling Bridge, putting up a wall of shields and long spears is a tactic dating back to Roman times, and pikes date back to prehistoric times. Wallace hardly invented either.
    • The most blatant example of it in the battles was the first - the battle of Stirling Bridge. The bridge itself played a key role in the battle by bottlenecking the superior English force, so they could not come after the Scots all at once, and it was entirely missing from the movie.
    • Edward I and the members of his court spoke French, not English; this could be written off as part of the Translation Convention, except that the Queen and her lady are shown speaking French.
    • The Scots won their independence at the Battle of Bannockburn after an English army had arrived to lift the Scottish siege of Stirling Castle, not after Robert the Bruce changed his mind about a peace parley. Incidentally, the film has the Bruce starting the Battle of Bannockburn immediately upon hearing of Wallace's death — which was actually nine years earlier.
    • Evidence overwhelmingly points to Primae noctis or Droit du Seigneur — the right of a Lord to take the virginity of serf maidens within his lands — being a fabrication of the modern era. Medieval marriage was controlled by The Church, which has typically championed marital fidelity. If any lord tried to claim the "right" to rape another man's wife, the least he could expect was excommunication, along with an almost certain peasant revolt (as Machiavelli wrote in The Prince a ruler could get away with a lot of things, but taking people's wives wasn't one of them). So, it's not that some lords didn't take advantage of their power to rape peasant women-they probably did. Claiming a legal right to it, however, is extremely dubious. Word of God on the DVD commentary notes that they did this to make the English more villainous and they were well aware it was never a real thing.
    • Bagpipes were not outlawed in 13th-century Scotland. They were outlawed in the 18th century after Scotland and England had become one country (the UK) and the north of Scotland, the Highlands, had been the breeding ground of several 'Jacobite' rebellions/mini-Civil Wars.
    • The makers were very nearly sued by the Scottish government for this one. Robert the Bruce did NOT betray Wallace, and in fact is considered a much bigger hero than Wallace ever was (the name "Brave Heart" was actually given to Bruce, NOT Wallace). To be fair, Wallace was probably the one person Bruce didn't betray at one point or another, and that's mostly because they never actually met. That, and Wallace didn't support Robert's claim to the throne-he backed John Balliol, Edward's hostage in the Tower of London and the nominal and official King of Scotland. Winning the Battle of Bannockburn has given Robert the Bruce a Historical Hero Upgrade for years. He was an accomplished political manipulator, and was just as brutal as Longshanks towards his enemies - he invited John Comyn to peace talks in a church, then murdered him. His army then rampaged through the Great Glen, slaughtering Comyn's supporters. This was not only a treacherous move, but a stupid one, as it divided the Scots against the English, with the Comyn clan pursuing a blood feud against Bruce over this.
    • Much like the Balian of Ibelin in Kingdom of Heaven, this movie's main character is entirely a fictional construct, any similarities to the real William Wallace other than the events of the war against England are entirely coincidental.
    • The last scene in the movie has the Bruce starting the Battle of Bannockburn immediately after hearing of Wallace's death. While news did travel more slowly in those days, it did not take nine years for that bit of news to reach Scotland.
    • All of the above aside, it's worth mentioning that the same historians who are quick to wag their fingers at this film are also quick to point out that the brutality of the battles is well represented, and in some cases understated in the movie, but, of course, if there's anything Mel Gibson unquestionably does well in his films, it's violence.
  • Hollywood Tactics:
    • Longshanks' tactics are extremely wasteful and seem more designed to show what a bastard he is than to actually be effective. He doesn't use his archers against the Scots at first, preferring to send the Irish conscripts because "Arrows cost money; [...] the dead cost nothing." But then he fires his arrows anyway, after his troops are engaged in melee, guaranteeing friendly fire. Why? "We Have Reserves."
    • The Scots aren't innocent of it either, with their complete lack of massed pike or any real discipline whatsoever. Oddly enough, this winds up making the English look more competent than they were in at least one case. The Battle of Stirling in the movie features the two sides launching berserker charges at each other on an open field with neither side having polearms. The historical Battle of Stirling Bridge saw the English launching a frontal assault across uneven ground and a narrow bridge against a Scottish pike wall.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: King Edward the Longshanks, though in reality he lived two years beyond Wallace's death.
  • Inertial Impalement: Invoked when the Scots counter an English cavalry charge by getting them to crash into a wall of crude pikes.
  • Invulnerable Horses: Actually averted. The depiction of horse wounding (mostly at the Battle of Stirling) was so realistic that the film was actually investigated to see if animal cruelty had occurred (don't worry, it was all CG horses).
  • I Surrender, Suckers: How William Wallace starts his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: When Princess Isabella's adviser says, in Latin, about Wallace "He's a bloody, murdering savage. And he's telling lies," Wallace immediately replies in Latin "I never lie. But I am a savage."
  • Karmic Death: The English lord who executes Murron by slitting her throat has his own throat slit by Wallace, using the same exact knife.
  • Kick the Dog: Longshanks repeatedly kicks the dog in his treatment of Scotland, and throws his son's best friend (and implied lover) out the window.
  • The Lost Lenore: Murron, see also Disposable Woman above. Not all disposable women are also Lost Lenores but Murron fits this trope as her relevance to the story doesn't end with her death. Wallace clearly still loves and mourns her, and she appears in dream sequences and flashbacks.
  • Made of Iron: Campbell the Elder is shot with an arrow, has his hand chopped off, takes an axe to the stomach, and still keeps fighting. That last one finally does him in.
  • Man in a Kilt: Although plaid kilts were introduced only three centuries later, and the Scottish didn't wear them until much later than that (and even then, they were typically saffron or brown, not plaid). Also, no Scotsman of any pre-industrial era would have worn enough cloth to clothe a family to a battle, where it could get cut up and bled on. That much cloth would take the average subsistence-farmer at least a decade of scrimping and saving to buy - cloth was expensive as all get out before extensive inter-continental trade and mechanized spinning and weaving. Flashing and mooning was a combat tactic, however.
  • Memetic Badass: William Wallace becomes one In-Universe; promptly Lampshaded:
    Young Soldier: William Wallace is seven feet tall!
    William Wallace: Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse!
  • Mugged for Disguise: Near the beginning of the film, Wallace steals the uniform off an English soldier in order to get his wife out of town. Later, "Were they dressed like this?"
  • Multi-Melee Master: In addition to his iconic claymore, William Wallace is seen to be proficient with a huge mallet, a flail (both ball-and-chain and hinged stick), a dagger, a longspear, a bow, a deer's antler, a warhammer, an axe, and rocks of various shapes and sizes.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Robert the Bruce suffers from this after seeing Wallace's face at the Battle of Falkirk.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The film's theatrical trailer shows a scene where Wallace is telling Hamish that they'll be different from the English by sparing women and children. This scene does not appear in the final cut of the movie.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Mornay's dream of Wallace charging at him out of a firestorm, screaming, and replete in blue warpaint. It then becomes horrific for the viewer given the way Mornay is then dispatched straight afterwards.
  • Oh Crap!:
    • When Wallace and his crew take a fort disguised as English soldiers:
    Lord Bottom: I have dispatched a hundred soldiers to Lannoch! They will be returning now!
    Wallace: (indicating his disguise) Were they dressed like this?
    Lord Bottom: *eyes widen*
  • Oireland: Although Scotireland is obviously avoided.
  • One Mario Limit: Wallace's wife was really named Marian, but it got changed to Murron to avoid confusion/comparison with Robin Hood's love interest Maid Marian.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: This film avoids Gorgeous Period Dress by averting the fancy clothes, even for the royals. Although Isabella does get some fancy dresses.
  • Playing Gertrude: James Cosmo, who plays Campbell the Elder, is only seven years older than Brendan Gleeson, who plays his son Hamish.
  • The Power of Hate: After Robert the Bruce disowns his father, the Elder Robert the Bruce, and wishes for him to die, the Elder Bruce says he's now ready to be king now that he knows hate (oddly enough, in addition to saying this Palpatine-esque line, the Elder Bruce also looks unnervingly like Emperor Palpatine). The Younger Bruce answers, in calm example of Shut Up, Hannibal!, that his hate will die with the elder Bruce.
  • Rain of Arrows: The English use this tactic repeatedly with Welsh longbowmen. In the Battle of Stirling the Scots held their ground and put their shields up, but that didn't completely prevent casualties. In Falkirk, it's used with deadly effectiveness, efficiently shredding the Scottish army (though the English took heavy casualties as well) and wounding Wallace.
  • Refusal of the Call: Wallace refused to fight the English at first, preferring to raise a family and live a quiet farming life.
  • Rose Tinted Narrative: Lampshaded in the opening narration, as Robert Bruce says "Historians in England will say I am a liar. But history is written by those who have hanged heroes." Not one part of it is correct:
    • Scotland 1280 AD. I shall tell you of William Wallace. Historians from England will say I am a liar, but history is written by those who have hanged heroes. The king of Scotland had died without a son, and the king of England, a cruel pagan known as Edward the Longshanks, claimed the throne of Scotland for himself. Scotland's nobles fought him and fought each other over the crown. So Longshanks invited them to talks of truce — no weapons, one page only. Among the farmers of that shire was Malcolm Wallace, a commoner with his own lands. He had two sons — John and William.
    • In 1280, King Alexander III of Scotland was not only still alive, but his two sons were also alive. The younger son, David, died in 1281; the elder son, Alexander, died in 1284; and finally Alexander III himself died in 1286. Alexander III left a granddaughter, Margaret, acknowledged as his heir by the Scottish nobles. Rather than fighting each other over the crown, the Scots appointed regents who ruled until she died in 1290. At this point, the nobles did not fall into civil war, and Edward did not claim the throne of Scotland. Instead, the Scots nobles asked Edward to preside (as a neutral party) over a commission to determine the rightful king. While Edward did claim overlordship of Scotland and undoubtedly influenced the conclusion, the result was to choose John Balliol as King of Scotland by the normal rules of primogeniture. At no time did Edward invite the nobles of Scotland "to talks of truce — no weapons, one page only". Balliol did start a war against Edward in 1296, because he felt that Edward was being overbearing. Unfortunately for Balliol, Edward was one of the best generals ever to sit on the English throne, and beat Balliol handily. Incidentally, Edward was in no sense a "pagan" — there had not been any true pagans in Britain for centuries (he wasn't even a paganus in the Classical Latin sense of "peasant" or "yokel"). In addition, Malcolm Wallace had three sons in 1280. The one left out was the eldest, also named Malcolm.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Say what you will about Longshanks. At least he gets shit done himself. Robert the Bruce also gets to be this at the end of the film.
  • Sad Battle Music: Begins playing once Wallace realizes the two nobles he was relying on for cavalry support instead deserts him, continues on as his own troops are killed by English arrows, until finally he discovers that Robert the Bruce also betrayed him after promising to help (of course, the historical Bruce was not present at the battle).
  • Scenery Porn: The Scottish highlands are given many lovely shots in this film.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Longshanks sends Isabella to deliver gold to Wallace in an attempt to buy him out of an invasion of England. Wallace firmly refuses.
    Isabella: He proposes that you withdraw your attack. In return he grants you title, estates, and this chest of gold which I am to pay to you personally.
    Wallace: A lordship and titles. Gold. That I should become Judas?
    Isabella: Peace is made in such ways.
    Wallace: Slaves are made in such ways!
  • Shout-Out: In the DVD commentary track Gibson cheerfully admits to stealing the final scene between Robert the Bruce and his father, the one where the door closes on Papa Bruce, from the shot that ends The Godfather.
  • Smug Snake: Practically every single British character, except Longshanks and Prince Edward.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Wanting to make Longshanks' victory over Wallace sour, Isabella tells him that the child she is pregnant with, and will one day grow up to be Edward III, was fathered by Wallace, and that Longshanks' bloodline will effectively end with Edward II.
  • Stab the Scorpion: Stabbing the would-be assassin in this case. Steven seems to be attacking Wallace, but is actually taking down a guy trying to kill Wallace.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: After their major win against the English at Stirling, Wallace is disappointed to see the Scottish nobles feuding with one another over claims to the Scottish throne.
    Wallace: We have beaten the English, but they'll be back because you won't stand together.
    DVD Commentary (Gibson chuckles): ...and in the next shot we see them all standing together.
  • We Have Reserves:
    • The Trope Namer, in this case referring to Longshanks' justification, when called for one, for calling the archers to fire in the middle of a heated infantry battle — granted, his own troops would be hit, but so would the Scots.
    • Also used with sending the Irish conscript infantry in first.
    Longshanks: Arrows cost money. Use up the Irish. The dead cost nothing.
  • Wound That Will Not Heal: Robert Bruce's father is a leper with permanent wounds on his face.
  • You Remind Me of X: Version 3. Wallace tells Isabella he was secretly married to Murron. "I don't know why I tell you now except I see her strength in you."